Childhood & Early Life
Pierre Trudeau was one of the three children born to Charles-Émile Trudeau and Grace Elliott. His father was a businessman and lawyer.
Raised in an affluent family, young Trudeau attended the prestigious Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf. It was while at school that he faced emotional turmoil after his father’s death
Graduating from the Jesuit school, he enrolled at the University of Montreal, and received a degree in law in 1943. While at the university, he was drafted into the Canadian Army as a part of the National Resources mobilization Act.
Post World War II, he resumed his studies, acquiring a master’s degree in political economy from Harvard University's Graduate School of Public Administration and later on enrolling in Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris in 1947 in France.
Away from the Jesuit influence, his voyages to distinct parts of United States, France, England and other countries exposed him to study about French philosophers. It also highlighted his knowledge deficiency and low level of legal training.
He continued with his dissertation work in Paris. However, the same remained incomplete when he entered a doctoral program to study under the renowned socialist economist Harold Laski in the London School of Economics
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In 1949, he briefly started working as an economic policy advisorat the Privy Council Office of the Liberal Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent. It was also during this time that he remained an active supporter of workers in the Asbestos Strike.
From beginning of the 1950s, he became a leading figure in the opposition to the repressive rule of Premier of Quebec Maurice Duplessis as the founder and editor of Cité Libre.
Though his line of beliefs and values were attuned with Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, he entered politics as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada instead of CCF’s successor, New Democratic Party.
In 1961, he took up the profile of an associate professorship of law at the University of Montreal. During this time, his views evolved as he largely opposed Quebec Nationalism. He also rejected social democratic and labour parties and instead appealed them to joined forces with Liberal party to raise voice for democracy.
In 1965, he along with two other colleagues was invited to run for part seats. He was successfully elected to the safe Liberal riding of Mount Royal, a seat he held until 1984.
He was elected as Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s parliamentary secretary. In this profile, he spent much of his time abroad representing the nation at important meetings and conferences.
In 1967, he was finally appointed as the Minister of Justice. In the new capacity, he formulated numerous changes in the legal system of the country, keeping in mind the changing attitude and opinions of the people throughout the 1960s.
He introduced Criminal Law Amendment Act, legalized contraception, liberalized the law against abortion and homosexuality and reformed the divorce law. He brought about new gun ownership restrictions as well as the authorization of breathalyser tests on suspected drunk drivers
In 1967, when Lester Pearson stepped down from his seat of the Prime Minister, Trudeau campaigned for the leadership position in the Liberal Party. It was his energetic disposition and radical views that showed him as a symbol of generational change.
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Despite inhibitions from party members about his commitment, he won in the fourth round ballot with 51% support. Interestingly, his ascent was historic given the fact that he defeated prominent and long serving Liberals. His supporters, mostly youth and teenagers, referred to themselves as ‘Trudeaumania’
On April 20, 1967, he was sworn in as the Prime Minister. His term in the office started on a good note. His foremost work in the new capacity was fighting for universal health care. To establish a ‘Just Society’, he adopted participatory democracy.
As Prime Minister, he brought forth a number of procedural reforms which helped make the Parliament and Liberal meetings more efficient. Furthermore, he expanded the role and duties of the Prime Minister in office. He introduced new programs which assured welfare of the state.
The most impressive reform on the domestic front introduced by him involved the implementation of official bilingualism, following which all Federal services were to be offered in French and English. It was after his endorsement of Lester Pearson's Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism that the Official Languages Act was passed in 1969.
During his term as the Prime Minister, he refurbished the cultural aspect of the country as well, turning it into a multicultural land within a bilingual framework.
During the 1970 October Crisis, which involved kidnapping of British Trade Consul James Cross and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laportet, he showed a determined public stance and introduced ‘War Measures Act’, providing the government with overarching power to arrest without trial.
As far as foreign matters were concerned, he professed world peace and insisted on Canada being listed in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It was during his time in power that he developed international relations with US, China and Cuba.
In the 1972 elections, he won with a minority of votes with major powers being with New Democratic Party. However, in the following elections held in 1974, he won with a majority of 141 seats against 264. It was in his third term at the office that abolishment of death penalty was implemented.
With rising inflation, depleting economy, burdening national debt and growing public aversion, his dethronement from the seat of the Prime Minister became eminent. In the elections held in the spring of 1979, he lost to Joe Clark but following a series of events, he became the Prime Minister again in 1980.
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In his new term at office, he introduced expansion in government support to the poorest citizens. He even brought forth the National Energy Program which despite much protest was implemented with a revenue-sharing agreement on energy with Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed in 1982
The most significant event during his term at office was the rejection of the referendum on Quebec sovereignty that helped keep Oebec united with Canada. The other significant event was the patriation of Canada from Great Britain.
Canada’s House of Commons accepted his reform to officially separate Canada from Queen Elizabeth II’s Britain. The constitution was finally proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II on April 17, 1982. It was the enforcement of the act that provided the citizens with fresh civil rights.
After a poll confirmed the defeat of the Liberals at the 1984 elections, he voluntarily stepped down from the seat of the Prime Minister, thus ending his 15-year of tenure. He retired on June 30 and was succeeded by John Turner.
In 1993, he published his memoirs. The book was well received and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. It went on to become one of the most successful Canadian books ever published.
Awards & Achievements
He was styled "The Right Honourable" for life on being appointment as Prime Minister. He was made Companion of Honour and later Companion of the Order of Canada.
In 1983-84, he won the Albert Einstein Peace Prize award. Furthermore, he was selected as the ‘Newsmaker of the Year’ for a record ten times by the Canadian news agency.
He was the proud recipient of honorary degrees from various universities including, University of Montreal, University of Notre Dame, Queen’s University, Duke University, University of Ottawa, University of Macau and so on.
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Several schools, colleges, squares, airports, peaks and so on have been named after him
In 2009, he was inducted into the Q Hall of Fame Canada
Personal Life & Legacy
After a high-profile romantic relationship with Hollywood actress Barbra Streisand that lasted two years, he tied the nuptial knot with Margret Sinclair at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in North Vancouver. The couple was blessed with three children. However, incompatibility led them to separate from each other which finally ended up in divorce.
In 1984, he was romantically involved with Margot Kidder, a Canadian actress, during the last months of his Prime Ministership.
In 1991, he fathered a daughter from Deborah Coyne, named Sarah.
Towards the last days of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer. His condition worsened when his youngest son was killed in an avalanche.
He breathed his last on September 28, 2000. He was given a state funeral which was attended by politicians from across the globe. He was interred in the Trudeau family crypt, St-Rémi-de-Napierville Cemetery, Saint-Rémi, Quebec.